Recently, during those torrential, late-winter rainstorms, the police visited our mini-Ponderosa.
To clarify: we moved from busy NoHo to the wilds of uber-quiet suburbia. We were used to sirens and overhead helicopter traffic and muffler-less motorcycles speeding down our street at 3:00a.m. We were used to a lack of parking and doors-banging neighbors who think like this: it’s a GREAT idea to bring a rooster home to live in my kitchen and to leave all my kitchen windows open so that when my feathered friend crows at 5:00a.m., an angry mob bangs on my door, which I don’t answer because I wear earplugs and have a white noise machine because I brought a rooster home to live in my kitchen and everyone knows roosters are noisy buggers, ha, ha!
We relocated from NoHo excitement to silent, leafy streets offering plenty of parking and a sweet house flanked by kindly types who offered up their lawn mowers when ours broke down because we ran it over a partially submerged-in-earth tree stump, and why wouldn’t we run over a partially-submerged-in-earth tree stump with our lawn mower since we’ve never had a lawn (much less a mower) of our own before and are bemused by mowers and gardening power tools and white fly infestations and ants as welcoming committees and lunatic mocking birds dive-bombing our cats and the frequent raking of leaves and yanking up god-awful growths called weeds and finally understanding yes, yes, gardening gloves are absolutely necessary when pruning roses (a procedure we YouTubed because we’ve never pruned a rose and are still shocked that rose pruning has proper procedure, like nose jobs).
To clarify: the previous inhabitants of our home spray-painted an ultra red Lightning McQueen (cartoon car) on the wall in our back yard. It’s gone now, but during those torrential rains, those mini-monsoons of earlier this year, the mural was still there. Then, one dark afternoon during a break in the weather, as my son cheered for Tinky Winky catching Tubby Toast, I sipped dubious coffee and gazed through the large windows facing the back yard—and I saw something besides old Lightning McQueen.
There, under the retreating blooms of our potato-vine-tree-thing, I saw, in white paint, this:
E N R I Q U E
My first thoughts: OH MY GOD WE’VE BEEN TAGGED BY A GANG A GANG WAS IN OUR BACKYARD AND THEIR NAME IS ENRIQUE AND WE’RE TAGGED AND WE DON’T HAVE A DOG AND I AM ALONE DURING THE DAY IN SUBURBAN WILDS WITH A SMALL CHILD AND TWO SLACKER CATS INCAPABLE OF CATCHING SPIDERS OR FIGHTING OFF DIVE BOMBING MOCKING BIRDS AND MAYBE IT’S SAFER TO LIVE IN POLICE AND HELICOPTER PATROLLED NOHO RIGHT UNDER DANGER’S NOSE THAN OUT HERE IN UBER-HUSHED SUBURBS WHERE HELICOPTERS FLY FAR FAR NOISELESSLY OVERHEAD AND ALL I HEAR ARE BEES RAIDING ORANGE BLOSSOMS AND THE OCCASIONAL DOG BARK AND MY SON’S PLEAS FOR HOT DOGS OH MY GOD WE HAVE TO MOVE.
I called my husband and in an urgent tone told him: ENRIQUE. He immediately called the police. As I waited for them to arrive, I stared gloomily at Lightning McQueen, wondering what he saw last night when the ENRIQUE gang arrived to mercilessly tag our lives—and suddenly I was positive ENRIQUE had taqgged Lightning McQueen, too, adding new colors to the mural, enhancing it, gang-artistes. My eyes scanned the walls of our mini-Ponderosa. I gasped: spray painted on the far left wall, just above the spiky agave, was a white cross I had never seen before in my life.
By the time the police arrived I was also convinced there was tagging on the curb across the street that said: UFO. Great. In addition to the cross-obsessed ENRIQUE gang there was also the notorious UFO gang leaving their mark in our Hood and we were going to have to move because we simply could not raise a child in gang-infested suburbs of the San Fernando Valley, no matter the cute houses and pretty, well-maintained yards. Any second the gun shots were going to start up. I was mentally packing my bags as I let the two policemen in and pointed out the tagging. Their politeness and poker faces fueled my terror. I watched them through the windows as they inspected ENRIQUE and the dreaded cross. It was starting to rain again.
The cops: No, ma’am, it’s not a gang. You’d have to live up in Northridge for gang action. Probably just some kid on a dare. There aren’t any footprints. Could be the rain washed them away, although the ground is kind of protected by that tree thing…Well, I wouldn’t worry, ma’am. Sure, get a dog and keep up your security lighting and always remember that nowhere is safe, but you’re in a nice neighborhood, ma’am. Good looking boy! We’ll be on our way now.
Wait! I begged, unable to process what they were telling me. What about the UFO gang?
The cops exchanged glances of pity and impatience.
The cops: Well, ma’am, If you go right up to the curb, you’ll see the letters aren’t actually UFO, but DWP. Probably someone’s water pipe is right around there and needs fixing.
They loped off to their police car, leather jackets up over their heads for protection from the cloud burst.
After I put T down for his nap, I hauled my computer onto my lap and brought up the before-moving-in and post-excessive-renovation pictures of our Ponderosa.
Oh. My. Sweet. Basil. And. Cow. Crap.
In one particular photo of the yard, one directed at the grave of Mr. Peabody, there, behind the grave, partially obscured by the potato-vine-tree-thing, this: ENRIQUE. Further scouring of the pictures revealed the white cross. There were plenty of photos of Lightning McQueen and as I examined them carefully it was obvious that no tagging enhancement had taken place. No tagger had been in our yard, period. No wonder there weren’t any footprints! I was both relieved and: DOH! DOH! DOH!
Forget out-of-sight-out-of-mind. How about: in-sight-for-nearly-a-year-and-COMPLETELY-NOT-ON-YOUR-RADAR.
I called my husband and listened to him laugh and laugh. Babe, he gasped between laughter gushy as the rainstorm. Babe, I thought we’d been tagged, too—it wasn’t just you!
Listen, I responded. Listen to me, husband: I made policemen get all wet and muddy for no reason.
Ha, ha! I can’t believe you—I mean we—ha, ha, so funny! I–I can’t breathe. Ha, ha, ha!
My cheeks burned.
I still want a dog, I hissed.
But babe, S laughed. Try and see the humor! Aren’t you glad we haven’t been tagged? It’s all good, babe. And funny as—-
He was laughing so intensely it was necessary for him to hang up.
A few weeks later, when the Ponderosa had dried out somewhat and the sun totally confused blossom-bearing plants with a surprise pre-Spring heatwave, I painted over Lightning McQueen and ENRIQUE. Only the cross remains—until I can get to the paint store and purchase more gloriously white, white, beautifully blanking, utterly erasing gallons.